Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial has been told Prince Andrew, former Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton flew on convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein‘s plane—but an expert says it could help the defense.
The British socialite is on trial accused of grooming and sex trafficking minors for the late financier Epstein to abuse and has pleaded not guilty.
Jurors saw the first witness take the stand, Lawrence Visoski, a pilot who flew Epstein’s plane, famously nicknamed the “Lolita Express.”
Asked whether he could remember seeing one victim on the plane, he replied: “I can’t visualize her sitting in the passenger compartment like I would, say, President Clinton. It was so long ago.”
Separately, he told jurors: “Donald Trump, before he was president, also.”
He added: “I certainly remember President Trump, but not many people associated with him.”
And when Maxwell’s legal team asked whether he was “familiar with Prince Andrew,” Visoski answered: “Yes.”
Christian Everdell, Maxwell’s attorney, said: “And he flew on Mr. Epstein’s plane, right?”
Visoski replied: “He did.”
All three men have denied knowing about or participating in Epstein’s abuse of minors. The court has not so far heard evidence suggesting they committed offenses.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Darrel Turner, who has consulted for the FBI, told Newsweek the high-profile references would build a picture of Epstein as a powerful man but could be used by the defense too.
He said: “When you have a crime that’s potentially involving an ex-president of the United States and the royal family and all this, then you’re going to have way more people now who are invested and who are paying attention.
“It raises the stakes dramatically. Because these people who are here are going to be defending themselves to a degree because if they don’t then its almost like pleading the fifth and making them more guilty so the prosecution are just going all the way.
“We’re talking about 14-year-old girls from a working middle class community in Florida. ‘How could they resist this psychopathic, manipulative billionaire?’
“‘How could they resist Donald Trump and Bill Clinton?’ It creates a dichotomy and a power differential between the people who were perpetrating the offenses and the victims.
“It creates a power differential that the average viewer can put themselves in that place and say, ‘oh my gosh, if I was going against the most powerful people in the world how would I handle that?’”
Turner said demonstrating a power dynamic in cases involving children can help jurors understand why victims felt compelled to comply with the demands of perpetrators.
However, he argued Maxwell’s lawyers may be able to adopt the same argument in her defense.
He said: “The interesting thing is for every method that the prosecution engages in to show this power differential, his money, his charm, his connections, Bill Clinton, everything, if the defense is smart they will use all of that for themselves too.
“They will say, ‘exactly, and here’s victim number 44, Ghislaine Maxwell. She was a victim just like these girls were victims. Put her up against Donald Trump, put her up against an ex-president of the United States. She was scared to death. He was protecting her and making her feel safe. Who wouldn’t do whatever he asked?’
“If they play it right, it’s almost like the government get their turn, and the defense get two turns. They say, ‘thank you government, we agree, and that’s made it really terrible for Ghislaine Maxwell.’ They can use the government’s own case against them.”
Dr. Ziv Cohen, a forensic and clinical psychiatrist who has advised the Department of Justice, told Newsweek that Epstein’s famous friends may ensure jurors are paying attention but what the prosecution really needs to demonstrate is Maxwell’s power.
He said: “This will capture the attention of the jury and make sure that they are awake and that they are paying attention.
“That’s good for the prosecution, they want an attentive jury, a jury that is going to be scrutinizing all the details.
“In addition, the argument that Epstein’s circle involved powerful people builds with the prosecution argument of a power imbalance and the sexual abuse and manipulation and coercion.
“But I also think on strict legal grounds it’s a bit of a distraction. What the prosecution really needs to show is that Ghislaine Maxwell was a powerful presence in contacting these women, introducing them to Epstein, in normalizing inappropriate sexualized behavior around these girls and to these girls.”
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